The Magisterial probe into the death of three sewage workers while cleaning a sewer line has said the contractor and Municipal Corporation (MC) field staff were responsible for the tragedy. The report was submitted to UT Home Secretary Anurag Aggarwal, who will take a final decision on the matter.
In his report, investigating officer Kashish Mittal, Sub-Divisional Magistrate (South), also outlined several measures for the MC officials to adopt that could prevent such incidents in future.
The report reveals that there were lapses on part of the contractor and civic body. Mittal, in his report, said “Not only did the contractual agency M/s Deol Engineering Works deploy the labourers without the knowledge of engineer-in-charge, it also sent them (the sewerage workers) without suitable safety equipment. Further, no representative of the contractual agency itself was present at the site to supervise the work when the incident happened.”
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Mittal also flagged ‘failure’ on the part of MC field staff, who were responsible for regular inspection of works being carried out by contractors in their respective fields.
Mittal told Chandigarh Newsline, “The contractual agreement between the corporation and the contractor clearly holds the latter responsible in the event of any debacle. However, the agreement simply does not exempt the civic body from any liability. As per the conditions of the allotment letter for cleaning the sewerage, the civic body had to regularly send a Junior Engineer to supervise and monitor the work. This would have ensured there were no lapses in safety and that the workers were wearing the requisite protective gear. This proved to be a prime cause leading to the mishap.”
Regarding the safety norms, the SDM recommended in his report that the MC should adhere to the Indian Standard Code of Practice for Safety Precautions when entering a sewerage system.
Since the incident on May 30, the Municipal Corporation has been denying negligence on its part and has solely blamed the contractor for the incident. In the aftermath, the MC officials blacklisted the firm and also suspended a staffer posted in the Public Health Department whose wife owned the particular firm.
UT Adviser Vijay Kumar Dev had ordered a magisterial probe into the incident. UT Home Secretary Anurag Aggarwal said, “The administration is in the process of analysing the findings of the report and will take necessary action.”
Rules to be followed
What the Indian Standard Code of Practice for Safety Precautions says:
* The atmosphere needs to be tested for presence of noxious gases and oxygen deficiency before entering a sewer.
* If oxygen deficiency or presence of noxious gas is found, the structure shall be ventilated with pure air by keeping open at least one manhole cover each on the upstream and downstream side for quick exit of gases.
* The workers should be educated about the hazards of water-borne diseases. Cuts should be covered with waterproof plasters.
* Gas test equipment should include safety candle lamps, safety lamps, lead acetate papers and electronic gas detectors.
* Workers inside the sewer need to check the gas level every three minutes and also during the same duration, the worker on the outside of the sewer needs to check with the people below about their status, which needs to be acknowledged.